A Virtual Chat with Judi Curtin

This year’s World Book Day from Ireland is by bestselling author Judi Curtin. Lily and the Lissadell Ghost is an exciting side story from the Lissadell Series (Lily at Lissadell and Lily Steps Up).

In Lissadell House in Sligo in 1914 Lily and her friend Nellie are housemaids at Lissadell House. Work keeps the girls busy, but they still find time for fun – and for friendship with Maeve, the madcap daughter of Countess Markievicz. So when there are rumours of a ghost at Lissadell, Sherlock Holmes-fan Maeve is determined to investigate. Between them, can the girls solve the mystery of the Lissadell ghost? This is a brilliant story of friendship, history and mystery.

This week I chatted to the wonderful Judi about her World Book Day book and the Lissadell series!

Lily and her friends are such great characters, did you enjoy writing this World Book Day book about them?

Ah, yes. I usually become very fond of my characters, and the Lissadell ones are no exception. This book is much shorter than my usual ones, and I had a lot of fun trying to give all my old friends a role.

What drew you to write about Lissadell House for this series?

Michael O’Brien had the original idea, and initially I resisted. It was the thought of my grandmothers, both of whom worked as housemaids, that first made me take the idea seriously. I liked the story of Countess Markievicz and her family, but I wanted to tell the stories of the servants too.

Who is your favourite character to write in the Lissadell series?

That’s a hard one! I love Lily of course, and also Maeve, and Nellie – basically I’m now bonded with all of them, and refuse to choose.

Did you have to do a lot of research?

At first, I knew little about the period, so I had a lot to learn. I borrowed books from the library, and researched online. The most valuable thing though, was visiting Lissadell House, and speaking to the current owners who have been (and continue to be) most helpful.

Did you find out anything that surprised you while researching?

The existence of Maeve, only child of Countess Markievicz, came as a big surprise to me. She’s largely forgotten by history, and I enjoyed reading about her, and bringing her to life in my own small way.

Do you enjoy writing in this time period?

I love it. My grandparents were alive at that time, and yet things were very different to what I have known. So much was happening in the wider world, but as usual, I’m more interested in what domestic life was like.

What does World Book Day mean to you as a bestselling author?

I love being part of an initiative that has produced so many excellent books – anything that encourages children to read is great. I read every day of my life, but for children who don’t, World Book Day is very important. For some, the free World Book Day book might be the only one they will receive this year.

Are you doing anything special to celebrate World Book Day this year?

I’ll be making a special World Book Day video to celebrate the occasion. Usually, I visit a school or library, but of course this won’t happen in 2021. If I’m not doing any virtual events on the day, I’ll be curled up by the fire with a good book.

What was your favourite part about writing Lily and the Lissadell Ghost?

I enjoyed writing about the investigation and the false leads. I don’t know if I’d be able for a serious crime novel, but this taster was fun – and maybe you should watch this space…!

If you could travel to any time in history, when and where would you go?

I’d definitely go back to the early 1900s. As a child, I knew both of my grandmothers, but neglected to ask them enough questions when I had the chance. One of them travelled to New York when she was a young teenager, and lived there for many years. I’d love to see her as a young woman, and experience the way she lived. I’d love to ask her about her hopes and dreams.

Thanks Judi! 

Judi Curtin, February 2021

World Book Day is on 5th March 2021. Judi’s books – Lissadell, Alice and Megan, Eva and Time After Time series are all available from your local bookshop or here.